Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our 1996 New Year's Eve Surprise

Happy Birthday, Miss Em!

I guess she's pleased with her gift.
You are our shining star! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Love you, Em Girl!
xoxo

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best Christmas EVER

In the words of my 4-year-old nephew, Tommy, Christmas 2008 will go down in the books as, "The Best Christmas Ever." Even though it's probably the only Christmas he remembers so far, it certainly was a grand day because it meant his daddy is home for good, "so he's ours again!" As much as I love celebrating Christmas every year, I have to admit Tommy was onto something this year. It was so good in so many ways. Not only was Matt home, but Dan's sister was here for the first time in several years, since her move to California. And, did I mention that Joe is home, too? Oh, I guess I did -- at least a few times. On Christmas Day, nearly the whole fam-damily was gathered at our house, under one roof. Life is good!

Without further ado, here's my list for The Best of Christmas 2008.

Best Day -- The troops arrive home.

Best Brother/Sister Duo in a Comedy -- Dan and Carol.

Best Brother Act -- Joe and Luke
Best Christmas Dinner -- As the kids get older, we get lots of help in the kitchen. Everyone took a dish, and made it their own, from Dad's green bean casserole to Em's honey glazed carrots to the lovely relish dish assembled by Chef Luc.

Best Present -- the electronic dart game that Santa brought for the family. We've been having dart tournaments every night. The only thing missing is the bar and the peanut shells on the floor.

Best Christmas music -- The C Family Singers, caroling together again for the first time since 1998.

Best Special Effects -- the soft glow of the Nativity candles and the Christmas tree every night.

Best News Yet -- only 361 days and we get to do it all over again!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Caroling

Last night, Dan and the kids and I had the pleasure of joining with our church's middle school choir and singing at one of the homeless shelters in our area. Admittedly, not all of us went joyfully. One of us insisted he would be lip-synching, as he's not much of a singer.

After church, we piled in our van, and joined a half dozen other cars to drive into the city. We arrived with trays of homemade cookies, jingle bells and Santa hats, and a guitar. Father Mike welcomed us warmly, which was appreciated as the temperatures were well below zero. He set us up in the hallway by the cafeteria and said, "Sing, and they will come."

So we sang. All of us. Even our 15-year-old lip-syncher was soon belting it out with the rest of us. A few people came at first, then a few more and soon it was hard to know which group was which as some of the residents stood with us, sharing sheet music, and our kids were sharing jingle bells with the residents' kids. As we all sang Deck the Halls our choir director was instructing the men to sing the first fa-la-la, the women to sing the second line of fa-la-la, the children would sing the third line, and last we all joined in together. And our voices blended together, and we sang as one. We sang about sleds jingling through the snow, Santa coming to town and snowmen, and then we praised the One who sent the baby Jesus one Silent Night, to a little town called Bethlehem, and brought Joy to the World.

As we left, there was much talking and laughter and visiting among the residents and the carolers. The initial shyness and reserve had faded, at least for the moment. We clasped hands and wished one another Merry Christmas. There were no presents, no fancy clothes or fancy h'orderves. But there was more Christmas in that room than I've felt all season.

I know that the joy of it will last longer in my heart than it will for those who are still wondering where their next home will be and how they will feed their kids. And today I'll be back to making my lists and working on the details for Christmas dinner. But, hopefully I'll do so with a lighter touch and with a song in my heart.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Four more days. . .

I really should be working, but I'm having too much fun cruising around Blogland, reading posts, checking out some items I bid on at e-bay, and slipping into the kitchen for an occasional Christmas cookie . . . where Hubs is making up another batch of rum cakes and they smell soooo good. If I work today, I won't have to tomorrow. And then I'm on a self-imposed two-week vacation. I have procrastination down to a science. When I really can't bring myself to put off working anymore, I shuffle papers, and then remember that the laundry needs to be switched, so I get up and do that, passing through the kitchen to check on the rum cake operation.

I've decided that keeping up with the holidays is really a piece of cake. It's doing it AND keeping up with the rest of the housekeeping that makes it difficult. Yesterday, I watched my daughter run up and down an indoor soccer field, wearing one black sock and one pink one. It's a good thing it's just an informal, 5-week intermural league, as she wasn't called for being out of uniform. One of the other parents thought that she was just showing her unique sense of style. Poor thing, I'll bet she keeps up with her laundry and HER kids never wear mismatched socks.

Other than the fact that none of us has anything clean to wear (I'm working on it though), we really are ready for the Big Day. I have a few more gifts to wrap, some grocery shopping to do. Last night, we broke into a gift basket from a family friend, made the soup and the bread for supper, then went to look at Christmas lights. Luke drove, Em sat in the way-back of the Jeep with the dog, and Joe opted to stay home. I think we're starting to wear on him, and he needed a break from us. Four more weeks at home, Joe! We'll try to behave;)

How are all of your preparations going?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The BooMama Tour -- Welcome!



Once again, I'm a few days late and a few dollars short, but I would like to join in BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes 20o8. So come on in and I'll share a few of my favorite Christmas decorations.


My favorite ornaments are the homemade ones that have decorated our trees for years. This little snowflake and the clothespin soldier were made by my college and lifetime friend, Terry. I love the detail. The photos don't do them justice, but the snowflake sparkles beautifully and the little soldier looks like he's ready to march.


This is another homemade ornament. It was made by the room mothers when I was in the fourth grade. I've always loved it because it's so pretty, but as a mom I can really appreciate the time and work that went into making 30 of these! In "those days" they had to pour the little molds and make the ornaments, then paint and decorate them. On the back is inscribed: 4th grade, Mrs. Allen. She was one of the most significant teachers in my life, so that makes this little tree even more special.

These little skaters are ornaments I gave my mom years ago. There's a little snowflake hanging above them, made by one of the Brownies in my troop a few years back.

There are a couple of favorites in this photo. The book is a Family Christmas Book that we were given the year Joey was born. It records all of our Christmas memories, holds our family Christmas cards that we sent through the years, and it's just a treasure of memories.

This beautiful ceramic angel is from my BFF. Each year she finds the most beautiful angel ornaments, in memory of our moms. I love this one. It's very fragile and instead of putting her on the tree, I like to find a special place for her.

These are a set of three candles that I just bought this year. They are nestled among the greenery on our mantle and their soft glow tell the Christmas story each night.


My mom made this angel for me years ago, for one of the first Christmases Dan and I were married. She has adorned the top of our tree or watched our Christmases from a special little nook each year. Isn't she sweet?

Thanks for stopping by, and Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Paula Deen. Not.

No matter how organized I am or how well I plan, there always comes a day prior to Christmas when I hit the wall. Today was such a day. I would love nothing more than to be tucked in bed, sound asleep right now. But, alas, while the rest of the house sleeps, I am babysitting a Holiday Cheesecake appetizer that still has another half hour to go in the oven.

Tomorrow evening, I'm having a cookie exchange for 14 of my nearest and dearest friends and family. I've kept the menu fairly simple -- drinks and appetizers and some sweet things for dessert. Whenever I plan my menus, I typically come up with a rough draft and then call my BFF aka the Food Network Junkie. She always helps me tweak the menu and comes up with something that will wow the crowd. So, a few days ago I was deeply engrossed in twirling my hair and reading blogs when the phone rang. It was my BFF. What're you doing? she asked. I quickly grabbed my notepad and a pencil. Oh, just working on the menu for the cookie exchange. I have it mostly planned, but . . .well, tell me what you think. . . and I read off my list. Then, just what I was waiting for. I saw this really good recipe the other day on the blahblahblah show. . . and, quicker than I could say "Giada de Laurentis" I had the perfect appetizer that would be the centerpiece for my buffet.

The only thing is, the recipe not only requires homemade breadcrumbs (You really don't want to skip this part, because it will make the recipe), I had to roast my own red peppers. And, this little number requires a special pan -- a springform pan, which I do have, but was no where to be found. I suspect it's in the same box that holds the controls for our electric blanket, the Deep Impact DVD and Luke's Tampa Rays baseball cap. So, six phone calls later, I located someone with a springform pan (my BFF lives, incoveniently, 25 minutes away) and at 8:00 p.m. started on the recipe. While still baking cookies for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will tidy up the house, run the vacuum, and give the place a quick dusting. I still need to put the jelly on my Thumbprint Cookies and do some last minute preparations. And the timer just went off, so it's time to put the cheesecake in the fridge and head off to bed. If you're still with me. . . g'night:)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook, December 15, 2008



FOR TODAY (December 15, 2008)

Outside my window. . .it is 9 below zero! It's a beautiful, frosty day, covered in snow and the sun is shining brightly.

I am thinking. . .that coffee with gingerbread creamer and a piece of leftover coffee cake is tasting really good;)

I am thankful for. . .my family all under one roof for the next month. My oldest son is home, my husband won't be traveling. My brother is coming home! Life is good.

From the kitchen. . .Counter tops are filled with baking ingredients, recipes, cookbooks. A project for a math final covers another area. Christmas cards hang on an evergreen garland. The coffee pot is full.

I am wearing. . . jeans and a turtleneck sweater.

I am creating. . . memories.

I am reading. . .not a lot of time for reading this week, except for daily Advent devotionals.

I am hoping. . .I can get everything in this week.

I am hearing. . .the furnace come on. Jack Ingram on country radio 98.5.

Around the house. . .A few loads of laundry to do, packages to ship, the dining room table is covered with cookie tins, packing materials, things that need to go somewhere else.

One of my favorite things. . .Gingerbread creamer

A few plans for the rest of the week. . .lunch with a friend today, doctor appointments, school Christmas program, cookie exchange at my house, soccer games, shopping with son #1.

Here is picture thought I am sharing. . .why is this soldier smiling? Because he'll be home for Christmas! We're counting the days, Matt. See you on Saturday! xoxoxoxo


Thank you, Peggy, for sharing the Daybook experience with all of us! If you'd like to read more daybooks, or start one of your own, go see Peggy at The Simple Womans Daybook. Go on! You know you want to!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rrrr-uM! Cake



One of our Christmas traditions is Dan's Rum Cake. Well, not Rum Cake, but Rrrr-um! Cake. If you are a fan of the Dick VanDyke Show, apparently that is where the tradition originated. I remember watching episodes of the show with Laura and Rob Petrie. But for Dan's family, the show is part of their culture. And the RrruM!Cake episode still sends them into gales of laughter.

T.V. aside, these little loaves are loaded with holiday cheer. Dan makes a batch every year. One evening earlier this week, the kitchen was filled with the most heavenly aroma as he slaved away. And then, the next day, he and the kids went off to work/school, and left all the little cakes sitting in the kitchen, wrapped up and awaiting their fate. And, wouldn't you know, by the time he got home that night, one of the little suckers had escaped? It was too much for me. Everytime I went into the kitchen, the little bugger was calling my name. So, I ate him.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

O Christmas Tree!

Here she is, in all her splendor. Somehow, pictures just never do justice to Christmas trees. (At least mine don't!) I can assure you, 'tis a most beyootiful tree;)



This is one of my most favorite ornaments. If you tilt your head to the left and imagine that there are four little black pipe cleaner legs underneath, which the camera didn't capture, you will be able to see that it is a pom-pom sheep. The tag reads: "I love ewe!"

This is one of those little pre-school projects that captured this mother's heart. Joey was five when he came home from school, carrying a brown lunch bag, stapled closed and tied with a ribbon. It was decorated, in typical pre-school fashion, with crayon colored Christmas pictures. He came in the door and immediately put it under the tree. "It's your present," he said. "You have to wait for Christmas to open it." So for the next week or so, it sat under the tree, and at least once a day he would ask, "Do you want to open it?" And I would say, quoting one of our favorite storybooks at the time, "Not yet, Big Bird. We have to wait 'til Christmas!"

On Christmas morning, beneath the tree, was a mountain of gifts from Santa. Joey raced down the stairs and I waited with excitement to see his reaction to all of the wonderful toys that awaited him. He climbed over the pile of presents, oblivious to all the new packages that hadn't been there the night before, searching until he found the little brown bag. With a big smile, he presented it to me. "Merry Christmas! You can open it now!"

There was such a purity in that moment, with the honesty and truth that only a child knows, that the heart does indeed feel more joy in the giving than in the receiving.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Memories

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going out to find and cut our tree. It's a tradition that Dan started years ago. There have been years when we opted to go to a local tree lot or (to his chagrin) pulled out the artificial tree that we've always had "just in case". But, for the most part, we've enjoyed having a "real" tree and it's created some great memories throughout the years. Before we head out, the first order of business is to put on a crock pot filled with chili or spaghetti sauce. After the long drive and a cold walk in the woods, it will be much appreciated by the hungry crew -- and by the cook:) Our hunt for the perfect Christmas tree has taken us through some of the prettiest forests in Colorado. For a number 0f years, we depended on my brother, Mark, to be our guide. He had access to secluded locations with beautiful treesk and were so remote that getting there was more of an adventure than acquiring the tree. One year we rode in on horseback. What fun it was, in some spots the horses were chest deep in snow. Another year, we took snow mobiles. That was the year a soon-to-be daughter-in-law lost Grandma off the back of her sled. Thankfully, the snow was soft and Grandma had a great sense of humor. As the years went by, we sometimes wondered, for whom are we creating the memories? One cold, cold day, we loaded up the kids in the back of our Expedition, with a cousin or two riding along. They all got caught up playing a card game, so when we arrived at the tree cutting site, they encouraged us to go on and look, they'd be along soon. Mark, Dan and I trudged through the forest, found a tree, chopped it down, and had it tied to the top of the Expedition . . .and the kids never got out of the vehicle. "Did you get a good one?" they asked, never looking up from their game, and by this time deep in the snacks and hot chocolate. The past couple of years we've found some beautiful trees in one of our National Forests. This year, we missed having Joe along, but created some new memories with Luke driving for the first time and getting to do a bit of four-wheeling on the road through the forest. We found the perfect tree. Amazing how each year, the trees just get better and better. And every year, we're more and more relieved to get back to the truck for the hot chocolate and snacks that await us. And, of course, there's nothing like riding home in a tangle of stocking feet and wet dog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

For Today, December 8

For Today, December 8, 2008 Outside my window...the sky is heavy and gray. We should have some snow tonight. I am thinking...the day went much too fast. Still lots left on my to-do list. I am thankful for...the nice day we had yesterday, cutting our Christmas tree. From the kitchen...supper will be chicken and rice casserole. Dan is baking rum cakes tonight. I am wearing...jeans, long sleeve shirt, Christmas socks. I am creating...a houseful of Christmas:) I am going...to I am reading...not much right now. I need to find a nice, easy Christmas story. I am hoping...we hear from Matt soon, that he's on his way home! I am hearing...the kids laughing. Around the house...the trees are up, the house is decorated, the boxes put away. Everything is very festive. One of my favorite things...drinking coffee or tea from a Christmas mug. A few plans for the rest of the week: Dentist today, hair appointment tomorrow, baseball practice, choir practice, Book Club Christmas dinner, Christmas party on Friday. Here is picture thought I am sharing...Em and Dan yesterday, when we were looking for our Christmas tree.
For more Daybooks, go to Peggy's blog, The Simple Woman's Daybook. You can read more daybooks there, or start one of your own!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fridays Fave 5

It's been a couple weeks since I've done Friday's Fave 5. To read other bloggers' lists or to do your own, visit Susanne at Living to Tell the Story. Here are some of my favorite things about the past week. . . 1. It snowed this week.Christmas lights look especially beautiful shining through a soft blanket of white snow. 2. Yankee Candle's Christmas Wreath scented candles. Combined with a couple of new Christmas CDs -- it's beginning to smell and sound a lot like Christmas around here. 3. Having pancakes for supper on Wednesday night. It was just me and the two kids this week, so we had easy suppers. 4. Dan is home now and no more trips 'til after the first of the year. We went to a local Christmas concert tonight, just the two of us, by the Rocky Mountain Brass. The music was wonderful and the sing-along part was great fun. 5. Putting up Christmas decorations. I still have the trees to do, but I had fun making a wreath for the front door and decorating the front porch. Pictures to come!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Snow on the back yard fence


Beautiful, isn't it?

I wish I could say it was as serene in the front of the house. This morning, we woke to about four inches of snow. Hubs is out of town, and I was feeling industrious, so I bundled up, grabbed a shovel and went out to scoop the front stoop, sidewalks and part of the driveway. It's a triple driveway, so I did the old "just a path to get to the mailbox."

I should mention here, that our driveway is not very long, but it's very steep.

I took the kids to school, and when I got back to our house, paused at the end of the drive to get a little running start. Went sliding and skating all over the place. My neighbor across the street was out with the snow blower, and it was roaring away, so I don't think he noticed my lame attempt to get up the drive. I casually rolled the car back down the drive, going sideways, and parked in front of the house. We exchanged pleasantries. He looked a bit puzzled at the tire tracks running sideways on my driveway. "Couldn't get up the drive, huh?"

I went and got the shovel, thinking I'd scoop a little more. And with that, went skating down the drive. Thankfully, by this time, the neighbor was busy with his snow blower again, back turned, so he missed that little display.

Nonchalantly, I crawled back up the driveway, put the shovel away, and went inside, closing the garage door behind me.

Note to Hubs: Sweetie, we need to get the snow blower going. Note to self: Next time, get the teenager that lives upstairs to scoop the snow. (Isn't that what teenage boys are for?)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Music to my ears

You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head, and it won't go away? At first, you like the song, because it's a catchy little tune. But after a while you want to bang your head against a wall to make it stop. As a mom, sometimes I feel that way about the sound of my own voice. I hear the same refrains being played over and over. Put your glass in the sink. Put your shoes away. Who left the milk out?
Sometimes I resort to writing notes, rather than listen to the sound of my voice repeating myself for the bazillionth time. I once came up with the idea to make a list of the 10 most often repeated phrases and numbering them. I would post the list on the refrigerator, or better yet tattoo it on my children's forearms and rather than say, Hang up your backpack, I could just call out (Child's name) -- seven!!
I just want to be heard! To know that somehow my children are learning the basic skills so that one day when they are living on their own, the Department of Health won't condemn their dwellings.

And, there is hope. Last week, when Joe was home, I heard him in the kitchen one day, giving his brother what-for for not putting dishes in the sink. Why do people think they don't have to clean up after themselves? I heard him say. I bit my tongue. And at supper one night, I can't stand picky eaters. If someone is going to cook for you, be grateful. Huh? And one day -- and this is my all-time FAVORITE: It's a lot of work keeping a house running, isn't it, Mom? Be still my heart!

As the chief cook and bottle washer in a house of five college students, I think he gets it. He has always been the responsible one. The scout who would lead the troop up the hill, teach the younger kids to read a map, and be in charge of food shopping for camping trips. So, it's only natural that he seems to have been appointed "house dad." He does much of the cooking and all of the grocery shopping. Keeps track of trash day and recycling day and delegates chores. It's not all as perfect as it sounds. Dan says if I actually saw the house (which he visited this fall), I would probably hyperventilate. Afterall, there are five guys living there. But, I have seen a glimmer of hope, that maybe after all these years, my boy has learned something from his mother:)

Monday, December 1, 2008

How I spent my blogging vacation

I'm back. I won't bore you with all the details of what I've been doing the past two weeks. I won't go back through my daybook to see what do I spend my time doing. Because, I honestly don't know where the time goes, only know that, on most days, there doesn't seem to be enough of it.

I won't bore you with the details of finally unpacking more stuff in the basement, repainting my living room because I hated the first color, and getting Joe's room ready for his visit over Thanksgiving (I know it didn't look like much, Joe, but you should've seen it before). I won't go through my calendar and fondly remember the pamper-me morning that I got a massage and a haircut. Or the absolutely wonderful day spent shopping with my sister-in-law, for all the "girl" Christmas gifts for our family. We have so much fun, finding all the girly stuff, oohing and ahhing over what will delight our nieces. Going to lunch. Taking my little nephew to see Santa. Oh.my.word. he was sooo cute. (My nephew, that is). I won't go through all the details of shopping with my aunt for her new car, how we felt extremely empowered that we found exactly what she wanted. (We are women, hear us roar!)

I'm not going to brag about how my Christmas shopping is all done, my cards are written, and invitations mailed for a cookie exchange.

I'd rather share what I should've been adding to my gratitude list for November, before I so rudely interrupted myself for a blogging break. I would add things like having my son home for four whole days, knowing when we said goodbye that he'll be home again in two weeks for Christmas. I would add how thankful I am for my sister-in-law, Debbie, who cooked Thanksgiving dinner this year. I couldn't overlook how thankful I am for a husband who works hard to provide for us, even when it means he has to travel from one end of the country to the other. We're both homebodies at heart, so his being away isn't easy for either of us, but he does it without complaining. I, on the other hand, whine about it. A lot. I'm thankful for a daughter who loves Lifetime and Hallmark holiday chick flicks as much as I do. We have spent almost every evening watching one or two, hot chocolate with marshmallows in hand. And, I'm thankful for one teenage boy who loves hot chocolate as much as my daughter and I do, and will make it for us, even though he won't watch chick flicks.

And last, but certainly not least, I am grateful for my blogging buds! I've missed you all, especially my friends that I exchange comments with:) I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Blessings to all of you during this season of Advent.

xoxo